Prepare PMP Exam Schedule Backwards – Brandon Pettersen, PMP


“I prepared PMP exam schedule backwards, by first setting an exam date and working out a study plan”, says Brandon Pettersen.

Brandon is Air Force Technical Sergeant from Boston, MA. He is a certified Project Management Professional with Direct Military Communications Security experience from safeguarding Executive Transmissions and supporting Systems Infrastructure. Brendon guides special access programs and their implementation.

In this article Brandon shares how he approached PMP exam preparation, all the way till the exam experience.

What made you to take up PMP?

BrandonPettersen-pmpI am interested in being a Project Manager upon leaving the Air Force and have done it within my career for years, so it was finally time to be certified and educated in it.

I wanted to have a real understanding of the process and methodologies used. Preparing for the course showed me how much I needed to learn, as well as how much more there is out there.

Studying for this certification taught me a brand-new way to study, prepare, and retain knowledge.

This is also one of the hardest type of tests I have ever taken, so it gave me new insight into what information to focus on, how to mentally prepare for a 4-hour test, and how to really read and understand scenario-based questions.

Which study resources did you use?

I started by attending a boot camp with Vets2PM, followed by a self-made study guide in Microsoft One Note, as well as reading Andy Crowe’s PMP Study Prep (ad) book.

Also read: My recommended PMP exam study resources

How did you approach the exam and what was your study plan?

Like I mentioned I worked out my PMP exam schedule backwards. As soon as I finished the boot camp, I immediately applied to take the test with PMI, and set a test date for 30 days later. I wanted to make sure I took the test while it was still fresh on my brain and the motivation hadn’t worn off.

I spent every day reading the PMBOK and at least 1 chapter a day of Andy’s book.

Also, I reviewed my own notes and took every practice exam I could find, no matter the number of questions offered.

Further, I graded my exams and wrote out material I got wrong and re-studied those sections until I wasn’t missing anything.

I studied for just a few hours the day before the test, and mostly concentrated on writing out the framework and equations I needed until I had them down in 10 minutes.

Any blockers you had to overcome?

The biggest struggle I had was understanding some of the equations and their place in the process.

EVA can be quite tricky if you don’t know how to pick apart the information you are given, and figure out what is needed, and more importantly, what isn’t needed to answer your question.

Also read: Why Beverly Wong feels that last mile of the exam is crucial to increase odds of success

How did you prepare in the week prior to the exam?

I prepared by skimming the prep books and PMBOK so that I had read everything at least twice. I also covered the Glossary of Terms and framework review.

Knowing the “order” of processes from the process table in PMBOK (table 1-4) is instrumental in judging what to do next when given a situational question.

What was your exam experience like?

My test experience was non-stressful and easy going.

I tested on base at a PearsonVUE center and the staff there were very nice and accommodating.

The questions were definitely complex in that they were not knowledge based. You had to know the framework to know where you were in the process based on the scenario, and also where they expected you to go from there.

Overall, mentally demanding questions, but none that were too over the top difficult.

Would you have any study tips for our readers?

I see that many students begin their exam preparations only to drop it when a high priority work comes up. And I found that working backwards on your PMP exam schedule is a powerful technique to put your preparation into the next gear.

While this technique creates a bit of pressure, that IS the idea – to trigger our seriousness towards hitting the PMP goal with some healthy self-created pressure. At any point, if things really go south side then there is the option of postponing the exam date.

  • I would tell anyone preparing for this exam to purchase a good prep book – one that breaks the processes down and move through them at a pace where you understand them. But not slow enough where things start to blur together.
  • Write out the framework grid at least once a day until you have all 49 processes memorized and understand which need to happen before others can start, etc.
  • Take studying seriously because it will catch up with you quickly on test day if you don’t.
  • I was introduced to PMP on 23 Sep and passed the test on 29 Oct, so it can easily be done within a month if you dedicate the time and effort.
  • Take only the time you need to understand the material, but not too long where you begin to brain dump or lose motivation.

All the best for your exam,

Brandon Pettersen, PMP
Air Force Technical Sergeant from Boston, MA

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